Randy Johnson Retrospective: The Top Five Moments in the Big Unit's Career
When Randy Johnson left the game in the sixth inning last night, a great moment occurred. As I watched history unfold, I started to think about all of the other great moments he's had in his long career.
I quickly realized that there have been way too many to count, which is fairly common when dealing with someone who's had a career like Randy's.
As sort of a farewell to the Big Unit, I've decided to take a trip down memory lane and count down his five best moments, in my eyes.
Although I'm a huge Mariners fan, and Randy in Seattle is the Randy I know and love, I'm not going to limit this slide show to Seattle moments, as I'm able to recognize how many great ones he's had with other teams.
Randy Dazzles the Angels - 1995 One Game Playoff
1995 was a magic year for the city of Seattle. After being 13 games back of the California Angels with 55 games to play, the Mariners went on a tear. By the end of the season, the two teams sat equal in the standings.
It would be a one game playoff that would decide the fate of the Seattle Mariners, a team that had never achieved a playoff berth.
En route to a Cy Young award, it was only fitting that Randy Johnson would take the hill for the M's, and perhaps even more fitting that he would face Mark Langston, the pitcher that we traded for him.
The game was an epic pitchers duel, right up until the seventh inning. The Mariners struck twice, getting to Langston for four runs in the seventh, and then tacking on four more in the eight.
When the Big Unit took the hill in the top of the ninth, he had a nine run lead to work with.
The first batter of the inning took him deep, but he retired the next two batters with ease, before going 1-2 on Eduardo Perez. I won't ever forget the fateful Dave Niehaus call:
"Now the left hander ready, branding iron hot, the 1-2 pitch....K insert it! It's over!! Right over the heart of the plate! Randy looks to the skies, that is covered by the dome, and bedlam! As the Mariners now erupt! 19 long years of frustration is over!"
Randy No-Hits the Tigers
I wasn't even alive in 1990, but it's clear that this is one of Randy Johnson's best moments. Not only was it the first no-hitter of his career, but it was also the first one in the history of the Seattle Mariners.
It took the Big Unit nearly 140 pitches to do it, but when the Detroit catcher Mike Heath came up to the plate with two outs in the ninth, he was only three strikes away.
As it turned out, it only took him three pitches to throw three strikes. After going 0-2, he blew Heath away with a blazing fastball to solidify his place in history.
The game was a masterpiece, and it was really the point when Randy Johnson started to build a reputation as the best pitch in baseball, a reputation that he would keep for a very long time.
The Big Unit Comes Home
This moment happened just last night, and it was truly a great one.
I had known that Randy was going to be starting a game against the M's this year, but for whatever reason, it hadn't really occurred to me that there was going to be a special moment like this.
This game was about as close to perfect as you can get. Due to the fact that Randy wasn't going for his 300th win, it wasn't quite as tough for Mariners fans to decide who to root for.
I think I probably had the same hopes as most Seattle fans - I wanted the Big Unit to pitch well, but I still wanted the Mariners to win the game. Well, last night was a great night for anyone who felt the way I did.
The game turned out to be a pitchers duel between Randy and the young Jason Vargas, with the Giants holding a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning.
After Johnson gave up an RBI single to Jose Lopez to tie the game, followed by a bloop single by Yuniesky Betancourt to load the bases, it was time for Randy to make his exit.
As he walked towards the dugout, the Seattle faithful gave him a magical and well-deserved standing ovation to show their thanks.
Randy, being the class act that he is, reciprocated. He tipped his hat to the fans, in such a way that you could easily tell how much Seattle means to him.
As this moment unfolded, people all over the city had goose bumps take over their bodies, and in some cases felt their eyes well up with tears; something that I certainly wasn't exempt from.
I hope that I speak for Mariners fans everywhere when I say, thanks for everything, Randy.
The 2001 World Series
I can't think of any time when I've been as happy for a baseball player, as I was for Randy Johnson after the 2001 World Series.
It was one of the most exciting World Series that I've ever witnessed, and the Big Unit was at center stage.
Randy was the winning pitcher twice, including game seven, and at the end of the series he and Curt Schilling were given the World Series MVP award, to share. Just add one more accomplishment to his impressive resume.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if winning the World Series meant more to Randy Johnson than any other of his accomplishments, but the way I see it, there was one achievement that was a little bit more special, and a little bit more impressive.
Randy Johnson Achieves Perfection
On May 18, 2004 in Atlanta, the Big Unit became the oldest pitcher in the history of baseball ever to twirl a perfect game.
Fourteen years after his no-hitter at the Kingdome, Randy Johnson retired 27 Braves hitters in a row at the age of 40.
Most pitchers can't even come close to this feat in their prime, but Randy achieved it at age 40; an age which many players retire before reaching.
I clearly remember watching the final inning of the game online, live, almost as well as I remember my 12-year-old self jumping up and down and yelling. Even six years after he had left Seattle, I hadn't stopped being a Randy Johnson fan. I never will.
I greatly look forward to the Big Unit finally reaching that 300-win plateau and tying up one of the few loose ends of his Hall of Fame career.